Elections Canada will be closely following provincial governments and politicians this fall.
Chief Electoral Officer Stéphane Perrault said in an iPolitics interview his agency will be actively monitoring how provincial activity may affect October’s federal election.
“On the one hand there’s the concern over the level playing field, on the other hand, there’s the concern over the natural course of federalism and how far a federal law can regulate provincial governments,” he said.
Currently, elections put no constraints on provinces’ abilities to voice their opinions during federal elections, a policy which has caused no major problems in previous years.
Though as Elections Canada restricts third-party advertising, it appears the agency has also created an apparent concern with provincial intervention in elections.
Ontario’s NDP has complained that the Doug Ford government’s campaign against the federally imposed carbon tax violates federal election laws.
For many years, provincial politicians have campaigned for (or against) federal parties, one of the more famous examples being former Newfoundland premier Danny Williams and his “ABC” (anything but Conservative) campaign.
In the 2015 election, former Alberta premier Rachel Notley campaigned with then-federal NDP leader Tom Mulcair.
Even Doug Ford’s predecessor, Kathleen Wynne, publicly campaigned for Justin Trudeau in that same election.
Perrault has not ruled out muzzling provinces and provincial leaders but says if they were to try it would be difficult to do.
“This is not a simple issue,” Perrault said.
“The level playing field is an important principle, but this is a federal system that we have in which the federal-provincial dynamics are part of the electoral dynamic of pretty much every federal election. So we need to balance a lot of things if we are going to look into this to regulate provincial activities.”
As it stands now, seven out of the ten provinces have right-of-centre governments, compared to just two in 2015 when the issue was not even being talked about.